Allowing payroll taxes to increase would hit the middle class hardest

Question: When is a tax increase not a tax increase? Answer:When Republican leaders decide it’s not.

Congressional Republicans, who seem to have sworn some kind of blood oath to the preposterously unfair Bush tax cuts—regardless of the damage they do to the economy —now want to eliminate the reduction of the payroll tax they helped to enact last year. The reduction in payroll taxes, while it puts additional stress on Social Security, which it funds, is of greatest benefit to the middle class and working poor.

That’s because it’s a “regressive” tax, taking the same percentage of everyone’s pay, regardless of income level. The amount of income subject to the tax is also capped, meaning a portion of the income of higher earners—sometimes a very large portion—goes untaxed.

We don’t know if that’s why Republicans suddenly want to increase those taxes, in particular—and it is a tax increase, by the Republicans’ own definition—but we do know they oppose raising taxes on wealthy Americans, even when wealthy Americans call for it.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, put it this way: “It’s always a net positive to let taxpayers keep more of what they earn,” he said, “but not all tax relief is created equal for the purposes of helping to get the economy moving again.”Hensarling is one of the House GOP’s leaders. He’s wrong on the first part and right on the second—but for the wrong reason.

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